Champaign County schools create basic guidelines for district back-to-school plans

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY — The six public school districts in Champaign County, along with the Madison-Champaign Educational Service Center and the Champaign Health District, have created basic guidelines that each district will adhere to as they move forward with back-to-school plans.

The guidelines are meant to be flexible standards and each district has the ability to customize their plans to fit each school’s needs.

They were inspired by plans developed out of Warren County and were finalized in Champaign County earlier this month.

“It took a lot of guesswork out of, ‘I wonder what our neighboring districts are going to do?,’ with everybody being on the same page,” Madison-Champaign ESC Superintendent Dr. Dan Kaffenbarger told News Center 7′s Jenna Lawson.

The Champaign County Schools Common Reopening Agreements focus around districts moving between different learning approaches based on what public health advisory level the county finds itself in.

Currently, Champaign County is in a level 2 (orange) public health emergency. The agreement document states that schools can operate at 100% capacity with face-to-face learning and increased safety protocols as needed at the district level.

Urbana City Schools, Graham Local Schools, Mechanicsburg Exempted Village School District, Ohio Hi-Point, Triad Local Schools, and West-Liberty Salem Local Schools are all included in the agreement.

The document comes to a common ground on issues like busing, food service, recess, classroom occupancy, school visitors, and remote learning among other things.

For example, the agreement states, ‘School districts will utilize playgrounds and will make every effort to maintain consistency with safety procedures and sanitization. Before and after using “high touch” equipment, students would be required to use hand sanitizer.’

>> Back to School: Kids, Classrooms, and COVID-19

The agreement also states that all families in Champaign County schools have to complete a Masking Acknowledgement Form, which states whether the student will wear a mask or asks parents to provide a reason their child will not wear a mask, which would need to be approved by the school district.

The full document is available to view here:

It’s important for parents to check with their child’s individual school district to see how the plan has been specifically adopted.

“It’s like framing a house,” Kaffenbarger said. “You have a base upon the foundation of what the state health department or Department of Education, the governor had given as orders -- so that’s the foundation and we just kind of built that framework. Everybody’s house is gonna look different.”

Nearly all districts in the county have released their plan for the new school year.

Urbana City Schools is giving families the option between the ‘district flex plan,’ which provides in-person instruction based on the county’s pandemic level or parents can choose to enroll their child in the completely remote learning-from-home option.

Triad Local Schools is also giving families the choice between face-to-face learning or distance learning. Triad’s reopening plan details at every pandemic level what in-person learning and the school environment would look like, as well as masking policies.

The district has also created ‘mask choice zones’ in classrooms.

Graham Local Schools is the last district in the county to release their reopening plans. Incoming Superintendent Brad Silvus said the district’s detailed plan is expected to be released on Thursday.

Jenna Lawson

I grew up in Springfield and I'm a big fan of all things Springfield, including Schuler's & the Clark County Fair. A career in journalism never really was a serious thought until the end of high school. You just have epiphanies sometimes, and that's the only way I can explain why I got into this line of work – but I'm happier for it!